Book Review: Beautiful Teams

Editors: Andrew Stellman & Jennifer Greene

This book provides deep insights into what makes a good team tick, and what one can do to make a mediocre team better.

The editors of this book are well experienced in software development and project management and have written several books on these subjects.  They have sought to draw as many views on team dynamics from the experts they knew.

The industry experts share their  experiences,  viewpoints, inspiring and interesting stories  in form of articles and interviews. Their contributions cover a  wide spectrum of industries and areas of interest : from defense to social organizing, from academic research to video game development, from aerospace and defense to search engines, and from project managers to “boots-on-the-ground” programmers and system admins. Every contributor has something interesting, important, and, most significantly, useful to say about teams: how they work, how to build them, and how they break down.

Though  several of their ideas are conflicting they have all worked well in different situations because all projects are unique and all teams are different. This reinforces the fact that there is no One Correct Way to form and manage teams.

A must read for every Project Manager and Team Member !

Summary of Chapters

Chapter 1, Leadership, an Interview with Tim O’Reilly : Thoughts on leading teams and companies, and moving the world of software forward.
Part I, People
Chapter 2, Why Ugly Teams Win, by Scott Berkun: Experience at Microsoft, and the wabi-sabi (i.e. beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”) of ugly teams.
Chapter 3, Building Video Games, an Interview with Mark Healey: Learnings while building the hit video game LittleBigPlanet.
Chapter 4, Building the Perfect Team, by Bill DiPierre: Story of how a good manager can take a disparate group of people and turn them into a great team.
Chapter 5, What Makes Developers Tick, an Interview with Andy Lester: What motivates developers and how they can improve their relations with their teams.
Chapter 6, Inspiring People, an Interview with Keoki Andrus: How he has improved teams in companies such as Intuit, Microsoft, and Novell by understanding, inspiring, and guiding the people on them.
Chapter 7, Bringing the Music Industry into the 21st Century, by Tom Tarka: The story of the rise and fall of, an icon of the dot-com boom and bust, and the people who lived through it.
Chapter 8, Inner Source, an Interview with Auke Jilderda:  The inner source initiative brings open source practices and ideas to corporate teams, and Auke tells us how he implemented it, and how it affected the people on those teams.

Part II, Goals
Chapter 9, Creating Team Cultures, an Interview with Grady Booch: The challenges of getting teams (especially distributed teams)  to gel  and moving them  in the right direction.
Chapter 10, Putting the “I” in Failure, by Jennifer Greene: The experience of working on a great team with conflicting goals.
Chapter 11, Planning, an Interview with Mike Cohn: How understanding the context around a project means the difference between succeeding and failing.
Chapter 12, The Copyfighters Take Mordor, by Cory Doctorow: How a great team that’s motivated by social responsibility can succeed against a daunting foe.
Chapter 13, Defending the Free World, an Interview with Neil Siegel: How he motivates his software developers.
Chapter 14, Saving Lives, an Interview with Trevor Field: What motivated him to leave the cushy world of advertising and dedicate his life to delivering clean drinking water to rural schools and villages in sub-Saharan Africa.

Part III, Practices
Chapter 15, Building a Team with Collaboration and Learning, by James Grenning: His first experience with agile methods.
Chapter 16, Better Practices, an Interview with Steve McConnell: How better development practices can lead to high-performance teams.
Chapter 17, Memories of TRW’s Software Productivity Project, by Barry Boehm and Maria Penedo: Story of one of the first successful process improvements ever done, told by a pioneer of the  industry.
Chapter 18, Building Spaceships, an Interview with Peter Glück: The challenges of building software that will be shot into space at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Chapter 19, Succeeding with Requirements, by Karl E. Wiegers:  How to use software requirements to ensure success.
Chapter 20, Development at Google, an Interview with Alex Martelli: How better planning and agile practices improve life at a cutting-edge company.
Chapter 21, Teams and Tools, by Karl Fogel: How a software tool can have an enormous impact on the way a team works.
Chapter 22, Research Teams, an Interview with Michael Collins: His work on a security research project.
Chapter 23, The HADS Team, by Karl Rehmer: Challenges in writing a whole new set of tools for building Boeing 777 flight software.

Part IV, Obstacles
Chapter 24, Bad Boss, by Andrew Stellman:  How one bad manager can destroy a team.
Chapter 25, Welcome to the Process, by Ned Robinson:  How a good team can overcome even the most incredible and unforeseen challenges.
Chapter 26, Getting Past Obstacles, an Interview with Scott Ambler: How to get past some of the biggest problems that can trip up a team.
Chapter 27, Speed Versus Quality, by Johanna Rothman:  Stiff challenges a a new project manager faces when she joins her team.
Chapter 28, Tight, Isn’t It?, by Mark Denovich and Eric Renkey: How an improbably great team faced obstacle after obstacle.
Chapter 29, Inside and Outside the Box, by Patricia Ensworth: How a team that’s faced with poor management, terrible facilities, and interpersonal problems managed to stay together despite it all.
Chapter 30, Compiling the Voice of a Team, by Andy Oram:  How one developer can take on management when the facts are in his favor.

Part V, Music
Chapter 31, Producing Music, an Interview with Tony Visconti: Shows  that producing records and building software have a lot in common.


Book Details: Published:2009; Publisher: O’Reilly;Paperback: 510 pages.

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One Response to Book Review: Beautiful Teams

  1. Anish says:

    Hi Gopi,
    Good review! Based on your comments, i will certainly want to read this book soon.

    I have recently moved to from flipkart. I have been using flipkart for couple of years and i like their prompt delivery. These days i see that Homeshop18 has much better discount and their delivery though not quite upto mark as flipkart is ok.


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